Aziz Ansari has been testing new material ahead of a big spring tour, and a stop in New York City made him especially candid.
In front of the approximately 200 people who won spots for his Village Underground pop-up show on Monday (out of 18,000 who signed up), the Master of None star, 35, veered from his typical test material to address the sexual misconduct accusation made against him in January 2018.
According to Vulture, Ansari said it was great to be back in NYC; he owns a home in Tribeca, where the incident occurred during a 2017 date with a 23-year-old photographer. He recalled a person on the street complimenting his Netflix show — only to realize the man was talking about Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act. The guy realized his mistake and said, “‘Oh, no, Aziz, right?’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Master of None!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Parks and Rec!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Treat yourself!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘And you had the whole thing come out last year — sexual misconduct?’ No, no, no, no, no, no, that’s Hasan!”
The website noted that Ansari then sat down, and in a somber tone he revealed the two reasons he hasn’t discussed the “whole thing.” (After making a statement, he mostly dropped out of sight over the past year.) The star said his reasons were 1) to process the incident and decide what to say about it and 2) “It’s a terrifying thing to talk about.”
“There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way,” Ansari said. “But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person.”
Ansari told the crowd that one of his friends said that the incident made the friend rethink all the dates he had been on. He said, “If that has made not just me but other guys think about this, and just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that’s a good thing.”
Ansari went on to thank his fans for sticking by him, saying that the allegation “also just gave me perspective on my life,” admitting, “There was a moment where I was scared that I’d never be able to do this again.”
And he talked about how he always used to end his shows with “Thanks so much!” but not really mean it. It was just a way to end a show. “But now, I really mean it,” he said. “I mean it on a different level.”
He continued, “You canceled whatever you were supposed to do tonight, and you came out in the cold, and you waited in line, and you put your phone in a stupid pouch,” a reference to the pouches often used at stand-up shows to prevent the audiences from recording them. “You did all this s*** just to hear me talk for an hour and some change, and it means the world to me, so thank you so much.”
In January 2018, the unidentified woman who made the allegations against Ansari did so in a piece titled “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life,” which was published by Babe.net. In it, she talked about feeling “pressured” into having sex with the comedian at his home after a date in September 2017. And while they ultimately didn’t have intercourse, she said he ignored the verbal and nonverbal cues she used to communicate she was “distressed.” She said she “cried the whole ride home. At that point I felt violated.” She told the website she felt her experience with Ansari amounted to sexual assault.
Ansari issued a statement saying that after the date, “we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.” However, “the next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed OK,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem OK to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.” He added that he “took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”
Ansari, who had many come to his defense, has been largely out of the spotlight over the last year — and there’s been no Season 3 of his critically acclaimed Netflix show, Master of None. However, he’s about to kick off an international comedy tour, starting in North America and going to Europe between now and the end of April. Many of the dates are already sold out.